Costly van repairs

14 July 2023 at 12:00 pm

Article image for Costly van repairs

Ever since we got the van, we've had issues with the Turbo just falling out at times. To solve this permanently, we repaired the car for more than it cost us to buy it! When this happened, our T1N Sprinter would still work, but it would loose it's acceleration (or "omph"). Going uphill on a motorway, the car will normally do 120-130 easily, but with this it would start at 90 and then fall off to 80. So it was drivable, but you would really be to one bogging everyone down.

Usually, the turbo issue would sort itself. The problem would occur and then after the motor cooling down, it would then work as normal for a long time. We've had it to different repair shops a couple times as well, but they couldn't find anything definitive to fix.

The expensive verdict

Neither me or AM ever did much with car engines, but my dad suggested having a Turbo specialist look over it. I called them up and their first question was "Did you already take the Turbo out?". I obviously had not, but they helped me find a repair shop local to them that could dismount it and take it to them for testing.

The test showed that the magnetic valve on the Turbo didn't open the last 14mm as it should, so the workshop suggested replacing the entire turbo. They could find one that was mint condition in the UK and the cost would be 26k plus the job. This amounted to just above what we paid for the car itself... We pondered this a day, but came to the conclusion that it might be cheaper to do this then to make alternate holiday plans.

The repair shop ordered the new Turbo and after 4 weeks of repairs, the car was ready. They had test driven it 45+ minutes and could not find any problems. We were happy and started prepping the car since our holiday was just a few days away!

The problem must be elsewhere?

We were driving 50 km/h on a flat road along the sea with no load on the engine when it happened. We were incredibly disappointed having spent this much money on nothing! We called up the repair shop who said that they could take it in and have a look again, but what they said is what I've since read on countless forums for Sprinter T1N owners - this problem can occur any part of the system.

The repair shop suggested changing vacuum tubes and the vacuum container for the Turbo as well as replacing the diesel filter (long overdue) since these were the only possible remaining culprits. This took another week and a few more thousand more, but it did eventually solve our problems.

How much is too much to pay for an old car?

By now, we have spent 46k NOK on replacing all the parts of the turbo. That really is a huge lump of money for such an old car. Why did we do it? Well... We do love this car given all the work we've put into it. That in itself is sort of priceless, but it really depends how you look at this. The van is our hobby and it's EU approved until November 2024, so we can totally divite the 46k over at least two summers worth of holidays.

Every summer spent on tour with the van saves us a lot of money. In a camper van, you'll also have to add 25-40 EUR/USD per night to stay at a camp site with electricity. In a stealth van like ours, we are fully self sufficient and seldom pay more than city parking fees (2-3 EUR/USD per night). We do have to dump our toilet + grey water and refill every 4-6 days depending our usage, but that's the only thing that ties us to any infrastructure. Each such pit-stop cost about 10 EUR/USD for access to facilities and it can be combined with a shower and clothes wash (another 10 EUR/USD). While on the road, you basically only spend money on fuel and food, so it's a really cheap for of holiday.

So yeah - this summer was expensive in terms of car repairs, but we're still saving so much on having our holiday house with us that it's not really that bad. Thanks to the stealth nature of the van, we can be anywhere there is a parking spot. This means that we can stay dead in the middle of cities - often right next to superb beaches. A hotel room at such a location at the season peak would be prohibitly expensive, yet we stay there for the price of parking with everything we need. It's worth it 😊

The repair shop also gave us some valuable advice for how to get the van EU approved after November 2024. They said that the engine and chassis is generally in really good shape for such an old car. It's primarily the body that is rusting and that part is possible to do yourself. We do however have some points of rust that should be fixed before sending the car to approval and one of these are the battery bearing parts. Yeah - they're quite rusty! We'll do these and some other core parts to make sure the next approval goes well.